UNSW students build a world record-holding solar electric race car with AWS
The undergraduate students from the University of New South Wales (UNSW) didn’t just build a race car from scratch—they built a world-record-holding solar electric race car: the Sunswift 7. In three years, they engineered everything from the aerodynamic design to the software used to run the car. After going live with their telemetry system on Amazon Web Services (AWS), the racing team set a new Guinness World Record for the World’s Fastest Electric Vehicle going over 1,000km (621 miles) on a single charge.
Understanding the multidisciplinary dream team’s needs
Sunswift Racing is a team of innovators based in Sydney, Australia that set out to redefine the future of sustainable transportation by developing solar vehicle technologies. The group consists mainly of undergraduate students from UNSW studying a range of disciplines, from business to engineering to industrial design. Since 1996, the team has built six solar vehicles and won several solar vehicle races.
Bringing the Sunswift 7 from idea to reality required collaboration and alignment across Sunswift Racing’s multidisciplinary team. Each team subset has unique requirements that are essential for enhancing and supporting the vehicle. For example, the mechanical engineering team depends on real-time data from various components such as the battery, solar array, motor controller, electric motor, and maximum power point tracker (MPPT). This information is integral for analyzing and optimizing the vehicle’s performance, allowing the team to make informed decisions and implement improvements. Meanwhile, the software engineering team is focused primarily on streamlining cloud technology deployment. Their goal is to foster an efficient, seamless integration of cloud-based solutions so that each team can experiment and innovate more effectively.
Pictured: The Sunswift 7 race car.
Advancing auto technology via the AWS Cloud
The Sunswift Racing team needed a cloud environment with solution integration capabilities to combine each multidisciplinary requirement into one cohesive solution to support a singular mission: create the fastest electric car on Earth. To build and address each component, they use AWS.
High performance computing and telemetry data
Using high performance computing (HPC) on AWS to monitor the car and batteries remotely transformed the team’s data collection, analysis, and utilization practices. There are 60 sensors on the car that generate more than 1,000 data points per second. With these, the team can access an extensive range of information about the vehicle’s performance and operation. This data transmits to dashboards in near-real time, with errors and logs written to Amazon CloudWatch, allowing the support crew to monitor the car live and identify any faults or issues promptly. The data generated by the car’s onboard computer is streamed to AWS IoT Core, where it is stored in an Amazon Timestream database for long-term analysis.
Software build, test, and deployment
Sunswift Racing used AWS CodeBuild, AWS CodePipeline, and AWS IoT Greengrass to manage building, testing, and deploying software onto the vehicle. The team bundled its code into a Docker image, which is securely stored in the AWS Cloud. This approach allowed the team to test images in its own environments and deploy them to the car for further testing and running. This supported the creation of new features like navigation, parking sensors, adjustable seating, a reverse camera, air conditioning, Wi-Fi connectivity, an ergonomic dashboard, entertainment systems, front and back boot-space, and live monitoring and fault detection capabilities. By incorporating these features, Sunswift Racing aimed to create an enhanced driving experience via improved vehicle quality.
According to Yunshu Dai, Sunswift Racing’s software development lead, the implementation of AWS CodeBuild had a significant impact on the team’s development process. Dai stated, “AWS CodeBuild drastically reduced build times from an average of 15-20 minutes down to an impressive 3-4 minutes. This improvement in build speed greatly enhanced the overall development speed for the team. Furthermore, AWS CodeBuild relieved developers from the burden of managing dependency installations on their local machines. By leveraging AWS CodeBuild’s automated build and testing capabilities, the developers can focus more on their core tasks, leading to increased productivity and efficiency in software development.”
In addition to leveraging the AWS Cloud for data and software capabilities, Sunswift Racing uses AWS Amplify as a hosting solution for its dynamic management system to keep track of all the moving project pieces. Automating the deployment process via AWS Amplify simplifies the process of connecting multiple git branches to hosted environments, making it possible to quickly test new features across different branches. This flexibility reduces logistical complexities associated with hosting and deploying updates. Sunswift Racing also uses Amazon Cognito to manage its user base and provide a central access point for team members.
Relying on telemetry to achieve a new Guinness World Record
In December 2022, Sunswift Racing set a new Guinness World Record for the World’s Fastest Electric Vehicle at the Australian Automotive Research Centre (AARC) in Wensleydale, Victoria.
Pictured: The Sunswift 7 race car.
Throughout that day on the track, the team monitored everything from motor temperatures to battery cell voltages. When an issue surfaced with the battery management system (BMS), telemetry helped determine the location of and source of the problem. The team monitored the screens to spot any issues and perform damage control before bigger problems surfaced.
Inspiring solar power technology solutions into the future
With AWS, Sunswift Racing built a robust and scalable technology solution that supports its multidisciplinary team. The solution encompasses real-time data collection, analysis, monitoring, fault detection, infrastructure hosting, cloud-based features, and streamlined team collaboration. This technology solution empowers Sunswift to drive innovation, improve vehicle performance, and effectively support its expanding team.
In October 2023, Sunswift 7 will embark on the Bridgestone World Solar Challenge, a 3,000km, or 1,864 mile, race from Darwin to Adelaide, Australia. In addition to pushing boundaries and finding new, innovative solutions to problems, the team plays an active role in the local community by educating the general public about the advantages of solar compared to conventionally powered vehicles. To this end, the team regularly showcases the series of Sunswift cars at exhibitions and holds information days open to the public. In addition, Sunswift Racing visits schools in order to teach and inspire young children about implementing solar power technology while demonstrating how it can be a fun and effective method of powering a car.
Watch this video to learn more about the Sunswift 7 story.
Read related stories from AWS:
- Cloud Accelerates Student-Built Solar Racer to World Record and Beyond
- How students help modernize rocket launches at the Western Range with the AWS Cloud
- Solcast: Solar irradiance forecasting for the solar powered future
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